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New report: Little progress made in reducing medical errors

In 1999, an Institute of Medicine report declared that approximately 98,000 Americans die every year due to doctor errors. The report is viewed as a landmark event, and enormous effort has been undertaken every year since to reduce the effect that medical errors have on the population. According to a more recent study, however, those efforts have not produced significant results.

Patients are still being injured in hospitals, sometimes fatally. A 2010 study by the New England Journal of Medicine found that in North Carolina hospitals, there were no improvements in overall patient safety between 2002 and 2007. Despite all the attempts at reform and improvement, patients in 2007 were just as likely to be injured as they were in 2002.

Still, the effort to improve patient safety continues. A report from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently outlined a number of relatively cheap, simple steps that hospitals can take to help ensure patient safety. These provisions include better hand-washing, a list of "do not use" abbreviations (which can presumably be confused with other ailments or medicines), taking steps to prevent patient falls and improved use of checklists during surgery.

Though these seem like simple steps, experts say it can be difficult for doctors and nurses to remember and follow them 100 percent of the time. Medicine is a high-stress field, and it is difficult to keep track of new polices, change old attitudes and break out of old habits. Making such changes requires a good deal of leadership and drive; this, according to experts, is one reason that such reforms take effect so slowly.

As this study shows, medical errors are still an all-too-common reality of our medical system today. What's worse, doctors may be reluctant to admit when they've made a medical error, making it even more difficult for patients to fight back. Those who feel they may have been a victim of medical malpractice should be sure to speak to an attorney for more information about their legal options for litigation and compensation.

Source: newschannel10.com, "Report details steps to boost patient safety," Randy Dotinga, March 5, 2013

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